AR, IoT and LBD’s: Technology is making fashion more consumer-centric
Technology is transforming the fashion industry. In a bid to stay relevant in a digital age, fashion brands are starting to use innovative technology, such as IoT and AR to connect with consumers.
For the last week, models have been stalking the catwalks in various London locations, showing off the latest designs from big brands and new names.
It used to be a more exclusive affair – a quiet showing to the buyers and editors of the industry, who could then pick and choose which looks they wanted to stock in six months time.
In the modern era, social media has turned Fashion Week into a spectacle for the masses. Now everyone can watch shows live from their living room on their smartphones and laptops. This shift isn’t just changing the audience, but in the way fashion brands are catering to consumers.
Karen Harvey, founder of the Fashion Tech Forum, has long thought that fashion companies need to start thinking more like tech companies – in terms of consumer-centricity, transparency and speed.
“Millenials were raised with technology that was perfectly calibrated to meet their needs, so it makes sense that they expect different things from brands.” It seems, however, that the brands are starting to listen and get connected with tech.
“See now, Buy now”
With Fashion Week comes a media frenzy. Bloggers, editors and fashion-forward alike lust after looks and pieces – reposting and sharing their favourite collections.
Yet traditionally these pieces aren’t available until 6 months later, when the next season’s clothes are strutting into the spotlight. This worked fine whilst Fashion Week was an industry event, but now, firmly in the public eye, designers are missing out on a chance to sell directly to consumers and capitalise on the hype of a new collection.
However, certain brands have seen the flaws in having a waiting period in an era characterised by instant gratification. Burberry began the ‘see now, buy now’ model last year – live-streaming the show and making the entire collection available to order online afterwards.
Organised by look, consumers can easily scroll through to find the exact piece that caught their eye mere minutes before. It’s luxury shopping straight off the catwalk in the comfort of the consumer’s home.
One brand has taken it even further. Nicopanda also had items available to order immediately after the show. But sponsored by Amazon Prime, orders were waiting at home for London customers within an hour of checkout – bringing new meaning to instant gratification and seamless user experience.
The Retail Experience
One criticism that Harvey has of the fashion industry is the lack of focus on the consumer. Previously, it was enough to represent an aspirational lifestyle – now, consumers expect their lifestyle needs to be met first.
For many, this comes in the form of improving the experience of shopping, both in-store and online.
Rebecca Minkoff uses technology in her brick-and-mortar stores to create a frictionless experience that puts the consumer first. A video wall helps customers find the items they’re looking for, while interactive smart mirrors revolutionise the trying-on experience.
Through the smart mirror, customers can change the lighting to reflect where the clothes would be worn. If the item isn’t right – they can also easily request a different colour or size, or simply order what they want, right there in the changing room.
The mirror, made by Oak Labs, can also introduce stores to the benefits that data-rich e-commerce has. A jacket at Rebecca Minkoff, for example, was tried on 70 times in a week but never bought – highlighting an issue with the fit.
Uri Minkoff, CEO of the brand, told CNBC: “For us we basically said there are so many efficiencies in e-commerce, how do we bring those digital efficiencies into the store?”
Likewise, stores are attempting to bring the perks of shopping in-store to e-commerce, through the use of augmented reality.
Gap unveiled its app ‘Dressing Room’ earlier this year. The app uses AR to allow you to see how their clothes might fit on you.
While not entirely personal, users just pick an avatar that best represents their body shape, it gives them a better idea of how their clothes might look. Gil Krakowsky, vice president of global strategy and business development at Gap, told Marketwatch: “We’re trying to make the shopping experience as effortless as possible…that starts with giving customers the confidence they’ll look good.”
The app is only available on Google Tango phones, but with rumours of a similar Amazon project going on and the new iOS 11 bringing AR to the masses – similar apps are surely on their way.
By using innovative technology that transform user experience – brands can not only attract customers, but increase sales hugely. Rebecca Minkoff’s smart mirrors for example, have boosted sales by 200% each year since they were installed.
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